Battleground Ohio: General Assembly House District 3
House District 3 of the Ohio General Assembly makes up the entirety of Wood County Ohio. Wood County is just south of Toledo in northwestern Ohio. The largest population center in the county is Bowling Green, home of the Bowling Green State University. That fact plays an important role in the nature of electoral politics in this district.
This seat is held by Republican Theresa Gavarone who first won the seat last year, although she did run as the incumbent as she was appointed to this vacant seat in August of 2016. This seat has been challenged by a Democrat in each of the last two cycles. It is a tough district for Democrats for sure, but if we back them up, headway could certainly be made here. The data does reveal opportunities to grow support for sure, particularly if we can convince the college kids to vote for someone other than the presidential race.
QUICK LOOK DISTRICT 3 ELECTION PROFILE
- Residents: 127,325
- Registered Voters 2016: 93,751
- Total Vote in 2016: 65,551
- 2016 Turnout Rate: 70%
- Total Republican Vote 2016: 35,795
- Total Democratic Vote 2016: 25,131
- Registered Voters 2014: 96,264
- Total Vote in 2014: 36,224
- 2014 Turnout Rate: 38%
- Total Republican Vote 2014: 21,630
- Total Libertarian Vote 2014: 2,038
- Total Democratic Vote 2014: 10,797
This district has 99 precincts comprising all of Wood County. Ohio has a multilayered governmental structure within their county system. This is a legacy of them being the first state admitted from the Northwest Territory. The basic units are the normal, Villages, towns and cities. Overlayed those are Townships which every county was divided into roughly 6 mile by 6 mile squares. As cities and towns were incorporated the shape and size of the townships change, but Townships are predominantly unincorporated areas within the state. Here is a breakout of the voter registration by type.
As mentioned before Bowling Green, a quintessential college town, is the largest population center in the county. College precincts are definitely a great target for us of course, but the data presented below shows how difficult it is to rely them as well. 99 precincts are difficult to review in graphics or charts and draw any meaningful information from them. I decided to break the precincts into three categories of equal size. It is important to note here that the Democrat won only 19 of the 99 precincts in 2016.
The three categories are precincts with Democratic Wins or Narrowest Losses, Mid Level Democratic Losses and the final category Largest Democratic Losses. I feel it important to note that opportunity can be found in all three categories, let's take a look at the data and see if that is true.
Democratic Wins and Narrowest Losses by Precinct
In the 33 precincts that the Democratic House candidate either won in 2016 there were 32,261 registered voters. Here is the share of registered voters by locality type for these precincts.
It makes sense this is where Democrats performed the best in this district since Bowling Green is the most densely populated part of the district.
To do this review we will look at both 2014 and 2016 outcomes. We will start with 2014 since that is the last 'like' election, but it is important to look at 2016 too, to better inform our understanding of the makeup of this district. So, let's dive into the data.
In the 2014 election the Democrat drew 3,368 votes in these precincts compared to 4,566 for the Republican. There was also a libertarian candidate on the ballot that drew 568 votes. Here is the breakdown by precinct:
I want to note these precincts are sorted left to right by the largest margin of victory from the 2016 election (that is the cycle the Democrat performed best in terms of winning precincts). The first thing that jumps out in the 2014 data is Bowling Green 1 C and Bowling Green 3 C almost had no one vote in them. Those are likely the campus polling places. It was not a presidential year evidently.
That screams opportunity, but, it could also just be fools gold. The lifespan of most of the student body as a resident on campus is about 4 years, so it is tough a build well rooted organized effort here. Turnover, of course, is high. This would take possibly setting up a student org that passes on leadership for organizing each and every election cycle.
Beyond that, there are plenty of places to work in this set of precincts to build support. BG 2 d and Northwood D jump out. But frankly, looking at this off cycle data everywhere looks like an opportunity. Here is 2016 partisan vote data:
So, in presidential cycles, Democrats fair much better in this set. Bowling Green 2 D still looks to be the best opportunity to grow support and cultivate existing support. Always a good combo. Looking at this chart I would add Bowling Green 3 D to look for volunteers and add Perrysburg Township Starbright precinct to an early precinct target.
Mid-Level Democratic Losses
OK, I know it can be discouraging combing through these pretty deep red districts, Keep in mind the objective is to find areas of opportunity or potential weaknesses to exploit to begin to turn things our way. Political views are not static.
In these Mid-Level Democratic Loss precincts, there were 27,359 registered voters in 2016. Here is the locality type breakdown for this group:
More populous incorporated areas still make up a decent portion of these precincts. But the more rural townships are a majority, so it makes since our performance has ebbed here.
Let's dive right into the campaign performance data.
Interestingly, while these precincts are all Republican wins in 2014, both parties performed better in 2014 in this group of precincts. The Republican more consistently better, but the Democrat also drew more votes here.
For this set, my primary focus is on the number of people who did not vote, particularly if the vote count for the Democrat is solid (so you stand a chance of recruiting a few volunteers) relatively speaking. That makes Lake Township Walbridge B precinct a prime target for me, as well as Perrysburg Township Glennwood and Perrysburg T. To make sure these are good targets lets take a look at 2016 performance:
The Republican vote is fairly consistent. The precincts I targeted above still look like decent opportunities. Perrrysburg T actually looks slightly more attractive because the range of Did Not Vote folks is high for this list. It adds a few targets as well, Lake Township North and Perrysburg L reveals some opportunity. The one thing I will add is that we can't write off these areas because Trump did well, there is room to work and we should work it.
Largest Democratic Loss Precincts
These precincts are going to be rough, but to win eventually, we do need to attack their strongholds too, but we need to pick our spots.
In these Largest Democratic Loss precincts, there were 34,031 registered voters in 2016. Here is the locality type breakdown for this group:
Even fewer voters in denser population areas. Not surprising.
So what happened in 2014?
When you look at the other two groups 2014 results, it becomes starkly clear this is the group that forms the Republican power base. Strong turnout (relatively speaking) for an off-cycle, election.
Lake Township Union precinct jumps out as a great opportunity to exploit. Interestingly, even with the biggest margin of victory for the Republican in 2016 and among the largest vote totals for the Republican in 2014, Middleton Township North presents here as a potential spot to attack given the high volume of people who did not vote. Based on this information I would begin organizing early in Perrysburg Township Belmont, Lake County Township Latcha and Northwood B.
Again, given the lack of volume of people who turn out in off-cycle elections all of these present as decent targets. Let's see what happened in 2016:
UGH, that is ugly. These precincts scored the largest win for the Republican and a high volume of folks turned out to secure that win. These bands for Did Not Vote are pretty narrow. Again, the impulse would to be to run away, but we do need to attack the strongholds to eventually turn districts like this. I would keep the list of early targets the same pretty much, might drop Middleton and replace it with Henry Township Baltimore A though.
Some Concluding Thoughts
Three districts into profiling all of the Republican-held seats I must admit the landscape looks pretty daunting. Fortunately, we have had Democrats run in 5 of the 6 races over the last two cycles. Our biggest opportunity window to carve out a larger base of support in these areas would actually be the off-cycle years. It is important to be in the areas and organizing precinct by precinct.
While the data is daunting, there are weak points and even some strong points for Democrats to work. it is vital we do so. So when candidates confirm their runs here we need to rally around and support them.